On March 4th we have a hectic day with a Japanese title fight in Tokyo and then a world title fight, featuring a Japanese fighter, in action in Jalisco. For Japanese fight fans it's going to be a long 24 hours, but will it be worth staying up for, and will their fighter manage to come out on top in the world title bout?
The world title bout in question will see IBF female Light Flyweight champion Naoko Shibata (16-3-1, 5) travelling to Mexico to take on Alondra Garcia (16-3-1, 1), the woman she originally beat for the title back in November 2013. In their first bout it was a then unbeaten Garcia getting on a plan to face Shibata for the vacant title, in what many though was going to be Shibata's final world title shot. This time around however the Japanese champion will be on the road whilst seeking her 6th defense of the title whilst Garcia will be fighting to get her career back on track after a number of recent set backs.
At her best Shibata is a real nightmare to fight. She's tough, hard working, well experienced and seems to get better as fight go on. She's certainly not the most skilled fighter in the sport but with her stamina and determination she has become of the toughest fighters to actually beat. In fact it's around 4 years since her last loss, to Ibeth Zamora Silva, and her only other losses have come to world class fighters in the form of Etsuko Tada and Naoko Fujioka. Whilst it's true that Shibata has been run close in recent bouts, narrowly over-coming Saemi Hanagata and Maria Salinas, as well as fighting to a draw with Salina, she has managed to grit her teeth and continue to retain her title.
Although a veteran with an 8 year career, 20 bouts and 7 contests at world level, this will actually be Shibata's first contest outside of Japan. More tellingly she has only fought 4 times outside of Tokyo, with this being her 5th contest outside of the Japanese capital. The travel to a new country here could well be a major problem for the 35 year old, who is showing signs of coming to the end of her career at the top.
As mentioned Garcia was unbeaten ahead of her first bout with Shibata, which was a clear loss on the cards. Since that defeat the Mexican has gone 7-2-1, losing to Victoria Argueta in a title bout at Minimumweight and Sabrina Maribel Perez in a Bantamweight title bout. More notable than those two defeats is a draw to the then debuting Eloisa Martinez. In the ring Garcia lacks power, and hasn't scored a stoppage since her second bout, when she scored a 2nd round TKO win over Norma Ojeda, despite that she is quick and comes to fight.
With the crowd behind her, we know that Garcia will get cheers every time she does anything. With that in mind we suspect we'll see Garcia pick moments to strike, and with the crowd cheering her work she'll get into the mind of the judges, who we don't imagine will make life easy for Shibata. Whilst we're not expecting a robbery, or a bout that leaves a nasty after taste like last year's Chavez Vs Fujioka bout, we do think Garcia will get the nod thanks on the score cards.
Although Japan has several high profile female fighters at the top of the sport it also has a number of top contenders and challengers who haven't yet managed to climb to the top of the mountain.
One such "nearly lady" has been the highly talented Light Flyweight Naoko Shibata (10-3, 3), a fighter who has twice come close to being a world champion. In fact had she been any closer in either of her losses she'd have almost certainly have tasted the belt.
On November 14th Shibata looks to make it third time lucky as she battles the unbeaten Mexican teenager Alondra Garcia (8-0, 1), a fighter stepping up massively to fight at the world level for the first time, in a fight for the IBF female Light Flyweight title.
When we say that Garcia is stepping up massively we aren't joking. To date Garcia has fought opponents with a combined record of 0-8. Yes 0 victories against 8 losses. All of her fights to date have taken place in Mexico, in fact only two have taken place outside of Jalisco and it's fair to say she has yet to face a fighter of any note, at all.
Although promising and seemingly talented Garcia is going from fighting local fighters at a very low level to suddenly fighting on the world stage against a top tier fighter. This leap is huge for Garcia.
When we said that Shibata had come close twice we really weren't joking. In September 2012 Shibata was beaten by Etsuka Tada in a WBA world title fight by scores of 96-94, 96-94 and 96-95. Just a fight later Shibata was beaten by Ibeth Zamora Silva in a WBC world title fight by split decision with scores of 96-94, 96-94 and 94-96.
Aged 32 Shibata is some 14 years older than Garcia and will know that her chances are running out. Being a close loser is still being a loser at the end of the day and if Shibata fails to score a victory here she may forever be known as "the nearly lady". The woman who can always get close but can never get over the edge.
Saying that however it'd be a shock if Shibata, an experienced and battled hardened fighter, cannot over-come the inexperienced Garcia here. We expected Garcia to have some success early on, but by the middle rounds she'll be getting broken down by Shibata's great work rate and relentless pressure. By the later rounds we imagine Garcia will be breaking at the seems and may not actually manage to see the final bell as Shibata finally wins the big one.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.